Mom Roxi Santiago’s son Joaquin has had atopic dermatitis (or eczema, as commonly called by parents) ever since he was a few months old. At 6 months old, the flare-ups were so bad that he was already prescribed oral steroids and creams.
“It was extremely difficult seeing Joaquin with red, oozing skin,” Roxi told SmartParenting.com.ph. “We noticed that he was not the typical happy baby, which was probably because of his eczema. That’s heartbreaking for a parent -- not to see your baby laugh and giggle as much as the others.”
To make things worse, Joaquin’s doctor suspected he had a food allergy that was adding more damage to his skin. But because he was on medication, allergy tests couldn’t be done.
“The most common allergy test is the patch test where you place different allergens on the skin. After one to three days, you check which of the allergens have reacted,” explained Dr. Joanne B. Gonzalez, a fellow of the Philippine Dermatological Society and the American Academy of Dermatology who holds a clinic at Derma 360° in Makati.
“If the patient is taking antihistamine or steroids, you won't get the right reaction. The medication will prevent it, so you won't know which one is really allergenic to the patient and which ones aren't,” Dr. Gonzalez added.
Only when Joaquin’s eczema cleared up could his parents have him tested for allergies. “We did food allergen elimination and saw how wheat, eggs, and dairy affected his skin. For a while, he was also allergic to chicken,” Roxi said.
Though doctors differ in their professional opinion on the role of food and diet in the treatment and management of atopic dermatitis, it is known that a lot of children who have the skin condition also have allergies to certain types of food.
Up to a third of children with eczema have a documented food allergy, said dermatologist Dr. Jon M. Hanifin, a recognized expert in atopic dermatitis and member of the American Academy of Dermatology. “In most cases, patients experience atopic dermatitis before food allergies, so it is important for parents of infants and small children affected by this skin condition to be aware of the risk of food allergies.”
Unfortunately, as shown in mom Roxi and her son's case, there are limitations to the skin and patch tests for allergies.
“It is limited to the use of some allergenic extracts. It is limited to the available skin area, which is a problem especially for infants and children. You cannot have it if you have significant skin rashes, and it is not appropriate when you are on steroids and antihistamines,” explained Dr. Agnes Famero, a physician and functional medicine practitioner at LifeScience Center for Health & Wellness.
As an alternative to patch tests, Dr. Famero recommends the Faber test, a diagnostic tool that can detect a patient’s allergens through a blood sample. “Faber test requires a small amount of blood sample. The blood sample can be drawn at any time, regardless if a current symptom is present. Even if the child has allergic flares, eczema and dermatitis exacerbation, and on-going medications, the test can still be done.
You do not need to stop any therapy including medications that you use for allergy (i.e. antihistamine, topical or oral steroid). Faber can be done at any age, in any disease activity or severity and even if you are pregnant.”
Aside from food allergies, Faber evaluates up to 244 allergenic preparations, it should be able to find out if a patient is allergic to pollen; mites; animal hair from dogs, cats and rats; molds and yeasts; and stinging insects, among others. Results from a Faber test can be expected after three to four weeks’ time and should be interpreted and discussed with a physician, said Dr. Famero.
The test approximately costs P24,500. It’s not a small amount, but Dr. Famero reasoned that Faber does test for a wide range of allergens. “Kids with symptoms should take the test so that parents will know how to better manage the child’s health and prevent allergy flares by avoiding exposure to allergy triggers.”
Considering it? Consult with your child’s doctor if Faber is right for your little one. “The doctor will be able to help you make an informed decision. They can advise you if the test is appropriate or necessary,” said Dr. Famero.
For more information on the Faber test, contact Global Medical Technologies at 952-4205 or visit their website gmtmanila.com.